GSP+ status and our rights


Last month, Pakistan earned an extension to the much-coveted Generalised System of Preferences Plus status, conditional on certain commitments on human and labour rights. Under the trade scheme Pakistan enjoys preferential access to the EU market, including generous exemption from customs duties, highly favourable trade tariffs and simplified formalities for export sectors. The scheme helps in expanding exports which translate into creating employment and thus contribute to poverty alleviation.

The programme can also lead to other positive spillover effects on investment and non-exporting sectors. But all of this comes with several strings attached. In order to maintain the GSP+ status, Pakistan has to keep ratification and effectively implement 27 core international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance. While Pakistan maintains ratification of all conventions, concerns have been raised over the lack of implementation of legal guarantees for the rights of Pakistan’s citizens. A joint working document by the EU also raised a number of red flags over the protection of labour rights, ethnic and religious minorities’ rights, discrimination against women and unreliable monitoring of human rights. At this point, the GSP+ status is crucial for economic development. Therefore, more than ever before, a proactive rights agenda is essential for Pakistan’s development and the well being of its citizens. Enforced disappearances, attacks on minorities, misuse of laws, curbs on free use of right of association and freedom of expression, lack of social security and fair trial in judicial system, also continue to pose a threat to our citizens and the very fabric of our nation. While important developments in legislation have been noted by the EU, implementation of laws in the country remain a cause for concern. Unfortunately, the lack of implementation will continue to prevent legal safeguards from being translated into tangible improvement on the ground for the people of Pakistan.

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